This is not a new concept. There have been plenty of cultures living on all meat based diets for a long, long time. Certainly, the new focus, and new science has only developed recently, but it’s incorrect to state that we don’t have the history or body of evidence to say people don’t live, and thrive on this diet.
If my memory serves, the first time I head about the carnivore diet was via Mark Bell – a youtube channel that I had been following for quite some time. It popped up again via Jordan Peterson, but it wasn’t until I head Dr. Paul Saladino pop up on the Meat Eater Podcast that I got a bit more interested in the whole movement. What really piqued my interest was that Saladino was pushing for nose to tail eating – trying to make it very clear that just eating steak was not a good idea, and that the organ meat, in addition to the muscle and fat was where the benefit was to be had.
It sounded like a much more ’rounded’ approach that just justifying eating nothing but steak, so, I ordered the book, started reading up, and decided to try it out.
I am/was not interested in ‘weight loss’ as such – I was more focused on overall health, energy level stabilisation and basically, feeling good and full of life!
A bit of my history
So, it is worthwhile at least covering off a bit my eating/medical history – but each of ours is different, as is our body composition, metabolism and so on. Sure, we share many factors (we all, generally, have all the same internal organs, and digestion works similar for most of us), but, we all have our own individual factors that can contribute to specific diets working, or not working for us.
As a baby, I was ‘lactose intolerant’ – but that, I mean I wouldn’t keep milk down well. As a kid, I had issues with eggs, egg albumin immunisations being a particular issue.
As a teen, young adult, I continued to have issues with eggs, though, it became apparent it was actually a wider issue with protein on the whole. I was exercising, lifting weights and drinking protein shakes – and often I would get a fairly bad reaction to taking down a pile of protein in one go. Stomach cramps, swelling, the works. More than once I would end up on the bed in the fetal position not wanting to move. I did seem to build up a tolerance to this over time – though, I guess it was a tolerance – and it potentially wasn’t doing me any favours. Incidentally – Soy Protein shakes, and even Pea based shakes would give me the same result – I tried most of them. Isolate, Slow absorption, high-carb, low-carb…
As someone who hunts, meat consumption forms part of my diet and, like most of NZ (or the planet for that matter) has done for the greatest part of our history (things like Vegetarianism or Veganism being relatively new things).
The vegan years
I actually ate as a vegan for a few years as well – after struggling with ‘protein’ I decided to forgo it completely and lived on bowls and bowls and bowls of salad for a while. That was a struggle. Not only was I eating like this, but possibly exercising more and training more than I ever had in my life. I felt good, though I was permanently tired in a physical sense, and I was skinny. Man was I skinny, like, touch something with a shin and the bones hurt skinny. Eventually the diet was too much hard work, and I wanted to put on a bit of extra weight to provide some padding on the body. I slowly introduced meat back into the diet and ended up eating a ‘standard Kiwi diet’ – meat and three veggies again.
A Meat Based Diet
So, when I decided to try the carnivore diet, instead of going full on, nothing but meat from day one, I decided to slowly shift into consuming more meat, less carbs, less ‘other’.
I was also aware of literature like Dr Saladino’s suggesting that just eating steak and water was not the solution either, so I wanted to ensure I didn’t just remove significant sources of required vitamins, minerals, nutrients without making sure I was replacing them.
At this point, I am not doing a strict Carnivore Diet – and I am not sure if I ever will. However, I have pretty much knocked out all wheat, diary, vegetables, and most fruit.
Much to Saladino’s chagrin, I am sure, I still drink lots of coffee (that’s a separate issue I am well aware of) and some alcohol.
I am also intentionally working on adding in more organ meats – as this seems to be a large key in the carnivore diets success – at least when looking at it as a long term, overall healthy diet. As such, I want to make sure I am getting enough nutrients in – and a lot of key ones, if basing the diet around meat – come for things like the liver.
An elimination diet?
Some have noted, that the carnivore diet also works as a good elimination diet – I have pulled out diary, gluten and a pile of other things (like processed food and sugar) as well as switching to a primarily meat based diet. It is quite possible that many of the health benefits also related to this. Like many things, its actually really hard to isolate changes down to one specific thing, unless you have the time and capacity to individually, slowly change things and see what each one does. I have to admit – it’s likely that not having sugar and diary are going would have been as beneficial as a full on diet change – but – hey – let’s jump on a bandwagon as well!
Ketones and Low Carb
As I originally stated, the intent with this diet isn’t weight lost – so – I am not so worried if I end up in a state of ketosis or not. Low carb – fine – I have always viewed bread, rice, pasta, potatoes as a filler food – designed to fill in for a historical lack of resource. If we have access to fresh foods – in the form of meat, fruits, veges, I don’t think many people would argue that a loaf of white bread is going to be better for you than a pile of vegges.
But, but, but, fibre!
At some point, apparently, having huge dumps became a sign of wellness. A large concern that is expressed, is that with the carnivore diet, you won’t get enough fibre in your diet and you will get constipation.
Well… I have been eating this way for a little while now – and don’t have any issues going to the toilet. Thanks for asking.
Like many things, it’s these core concepts that are getting questioned by the proponents of new ways of eating – arguing the point, that, if you are going to say you need vegetables for adequate fibre – and maybe we also should be asking if we actually need the fibre in the first place. It’s getting close to circular reasoning – we eat veggies to get fibre to get the fibre we need and we need fibre so we eat veggies. Do we actually need as much fibre as we think? For that matter – do we need to poo as much as we think? There is a difference between reducing the amount we excrete and actually being constipated as well, btw.
Good. It’s kind of hard to isolate things down to one specific thing, but on the whole, the energy levels are a lot more stable, I haven’t felt any significant drop in energy, and, I have also skipped many of the concerns people have reported when switching over to a carnivore diet – I do accredit this to the gradual, instead of sudden change, and I have also been careful to cover off my bases in regards to salt, minerals and other considerations.
It is still early days – and there are couple of things I want to tweak, so expect a few more articles on the carnivore diet as things process.
Ultimately, make up your own mind, try things out yourself, see what works for you. The intent of this is certainly not to try and convince anyone of anything, rather, like most the site, simply provide and document some of the things I am learning and trying, in case someone else wants a bit of curated resource for themselves. More soon!